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Garden of Love
By Jan Ross

Cold winds blasted. Snow was flying. Thankfully the last of the garden was harvested.

Grandma cleared out the large room upstairs except for chairs, a cutting table, and the quilting frame. She set out thimbles, needles, thread, and scissors … every detail was taken care of. Now all she had to do was wait for the ladies to arrive. What an exciting day this was going to be for several of her closest friends.

Grandma always looked forward to this time of year … the insects were gone but there was soon to be a buzz of activity in her house. For years it had been customary for women from the nearby farms to gather at the first snow.

Every year, as soon as she put up her last quart of tomatoes, she began her preparations, looking for scraps of colorful fabrics with usable patterns and textures. The story that went with each scrap would be shared as the womenfolk busied themselves with quilting.

Early that first snowy morning, the upstairs room was busy with chatter. It was Allamae's turn to decide the pattern for the quilts the women would make this winter.

"I've waited for years for my turn to choose! I've got it, but let me tell you why I chose this particular pattern." Almost as if she were unable to catch her breath, she continued with excitement. "Hezekiah came back from the field early this spring with a surprise. I knew something was up when I watched him walk from the barn. He had one of those silly grins on his face! I'll tell you, ladies, I about fainted when he handed me a bouquet of flowers. He never did that in all our years together!"

Allamae and Hezekiah had been married 37 years. Their first years of marriage were marked with tragedy, having lost their three daughters in a dreadful fire.

Grandpa and Hezekiah were good friends, working closely together, taking turns going into town for supplies, sharing expenses for larger farm implements and machinery. Grandma and Allamae were able to talk about anything … anything except the reason for Allamae's broken heart. Since that horrifying day so many years ago, Hezekiah and Allamae struggled to understand how a loving God could take their three most precious possessions in such a tragic way.

"OK, Allamae, what's our pattern this year? We've done Double Wedding Ring, Bride's Bouquet, and even an Orange Peel pattern. I can't imagine anything more beautiful than last year's quilts. What's it going to be? Don't keep us guessing."

Grandma was the impatient type. She had to know everything.

"Hezekiah's bouquets were so beautiful. And, not just once, but at least twice a week this whole summer. My living room began to look like a flower garden with fresh flowers and blooms everywhere! I don't know where he got them but--"

"Allamae!"

"OK, let's make Flower Garden quilts this year."

The ladies all seemed to be excited about the new pattern choice. As they began to dig through their bags to find fabric that might work, no one noticed what Allamae was doing until she began to speak.

As she reached down in her bag, Allamae tenderly pulled out three tiny, carefully folded dresses and began to share.

"This blue dress belonged to beautiful Lydia, our oldest … it brought out the blue in her beautiful eyes. She was five when…"

Sudden silence befell the busy chatter filling the upstairs room. It was unbelievable-Allamae never before spoke of her children to anyone.

"And, this little pink dress belonged to Natalie, our middle child … so, so precious. Her little cheeks matched the rosy pink in the flowers embroidered on the collar. She was four."

Grandma's eyes glistened with tears. Yes, something was different … Allamae was talking, sharing-opening up. She never heard her speak of the children in all the years of their endearing friendship.

"And, this precious white dress belonged to little Naomi, our youngest. She had just turned three. My mother made this little dress for her birthday just a week before..."

Choking back tears, almost unable to go on…

"…just a week before Jesus called our little ones home to Him. I never understood how He could pluck my three most prized possessions out of our lives so abruptly until Hezekiah brought that first bouquet home to me this spring. Just as he plucked the flowers out of a beautiful garden, Jesus plucked our precious blossoms from our garden of love."

There wasn't a dry eye in Grandma's upstairs room as they listened to Allamae share about her children.

"Each time Hezekiah brought flowers, I was reminded my precious little girls were with Jesus … they were fragrant in their innocence, and now I'm sure they make Him smile every time He sees them. That's why I want to make 'Flower Garden' quilts this year."

Allamae walked over to the table and began to arrange the little dresses on the table so everyone could see them.

"This first quilt we make this year will hang as a memorial in our home-a constant reminder that Hezekiah and I have a garden flourishing forever … precious blossoms planted in a garden of love-God's love-that never wilt or die."

With utmost care she began to cut her three little dresses into perfectly shaped pieces. The ladies watched with tearful eyes as she carefully placed each piece on the table forming the pattern.

It wasn't long before the first quilt was completed-a quilt that would preserve the memory of the precious bouquet plucked from Hezekiah and Allamae's "Garden of Love."
Jan Ross is a wife of 35 years, mother of six, and grandmother of twelve. Her life's passion is pursuing the heart of God as a writer, musician, and ordained minister. She has a burning desire to build and strengthen the Kingdom of God through teaching, personal ministry, and ministering both locally and on the mission field. As co-founder and President of Women of PASSIONS, an outreach of Heart of God International Ministries (http://heartofgodinternational.com), she is available to minister to your church or women's group. You may contact Jan through her website or the Letters page of this magazine.